The project will create the relationships, tools, and approaches necessary to help local jurisdictions implement The Wasatch Choice for 2040 and achieve the resulting quality-of-life benefits.
In the late 1990s, Envision Utah facilitated a pioneering regional visioning effort to create a land-use and transportation strategy for a ten-county area along the Wasatch Front. Approximately 20,000 residents worked with business and community leaders to create the Quality Growth Strategy, which has guided community development for the past decade.
In 2004, the state’s largest metropolitan planning organizations – Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) and Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) –, the Utah Department of Transportation , and the Utah Transit Authority engaged Envision Utah to conduct another public process—called “Wasatch Choices 2040”—to find a more effective approach to transportation planning in Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah Counties. Thousands of residents, local technical experts and elected officials contributed to Wasatch Choices 2040 through workshops, scenario building, independent polling, and on-line surveys. Wasatch Choices 2040 identified a series of growth principles to guide development decisions and make our transportation system more efficient and cost-effective. Subsequently, WFRC, MAG and Envision Utah, in close collaboration with local elected officials, further refined the vision, creating The Wasatch Choice for 2040. In 2010, the elected officials comprising WFRC formally adopted The Wasatch Choice for 2040 as the vision for addressing our region’s growth and as the foundation for our long-range regional transportation plan.
Local communities are adjusting their general plans and our transportation agencies are conforming the region’s transportation plans to the Vision.
The Vision is an instrument to guide implementation, supporting more sustainable and livable communities for generations to come. It will help maintain the high quality of life for the residents of the Wasatch Front as the population nearly doubles in the next three decades. Among other things, the Vision emphasizes using our limited financial resources more effectively, integrating land-use and transportation systems, meeting housing needs, building in areas with existing infrastructure, and energy conservation. It envisions new mixed-use villages and economic centers tied together by an efficient, modern transportation system (“centers”). This Vision for the future of the four urban counties is based on extensive market research showing that changing consumer demographics and preferences, increasing land and energy costs, and a growing desire to trade commute time for family and recreation time are driving demand for living in centers. In short, it gives people the housing and transportation choices they want in a way that benefits us all.
Implementing The Wasatch Choice for 2040 will provide significant quality-of-life benefits:
- Saves billions of dollars in infrastructure, housing and transportation costs that can go back into our pockets
- Gives us more time to do what we care about most
- Improves air quality for our health and economic growth
- Maintains the character of existing neighborhoods
- Preserves key farms and open space
- Provides housing for people of all life stages and incomes
- Uses less of our limited water resources
- Creates more active neighborhoods, supporting improved public health
- Enhances our ability to recruit and retain jobs and highly skilled workers
- Provides more choices for how we and the next generation will live, work, play and travel
By implementing the Vision, we can accommodate growth, enjoy more financial security, build first-class communities, and preserve the stunning beauty of our state. While the benefits of the Vision are compelling, there are barriers to implementation. Some communities lack public support for or appropriate ordinances to develop mixed-use economic centers. In some cases, developers and lenders resist investing in new development types. Some community plans don’t square with market reality and, consequently, don’t move forward. Moreover, coordinating among many property owners and other stakeholders is challenging. What we need are good local examples of vibrant, successful “centers” that solve these and other challenges.
Through this project, the partners will help local jurisdictions and private developers implement the Vision in a way that works for their communities. This initiative will facilitate communication between the public and private sectors, generate information to help all stakeholders make sound long-range decisions about land use and transportation, and provide practical assistance to communities as they build exemplary development projects that will inspire others and achieve the benefits listed above.
Our work here will serve as a model for regions throughout the country that are dealing with similar issues. Once again, Utah will lead the way.